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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 March 2010) . . Page.. 1039 ..

pressure systems, create temperature inversions which make it difficult for air pollutants to disperse through the air evenly. And, whilst this haze over the mountains and valley can look very picturesque, it is an alarming indicator.

I understand that information about our air quality is collected at the performance monitoring station located at Monash. It is appropriate that the monitoring station is in the Tuggeranong Valley because it seems that the Tuggeranong Valley, because of its geography, is an area of considerable concern.

When this issue was last discussed in June last year, there was much talk of particulate matter and the measurement of particulate matter. Measurements are referred to as PM10 and PM2.5 and are the measurement of particulate matter less than 10 and less than 2.5 microns in size, respectively.

The national standard for PM10 requires levels below 50 micrograms per metre cubed. The Environment Protection and Heritage Council report dated June 2009 on the data taken from the monitoring station at Monash indicates that during 2008 the PM10 level in the Tuggeranong Valley exceeded that level only three times, once in October and twice in November.

At these times of year, these peaks would no doubt be as a result of hazard reduction burns and not wood smoke. There is another measure, which is the 2.5-micron measure. This less reliable measure shows that levels were exceeded only six times between May and August, which may or may not be as a result of excessive wood smoke pollution.

Generally speaking, the data shows that while there is an increase in particulate matter in the high period of wood fire burning, the general case is that we are well within the national environment protection measures, and we are well below most of those measures on most days. That is not to say that there is not a perception of a problem. The issue of visual pollution certainly arises.

It is important to continue with the programs currently in place such as the “don’t burn tonight” campaign and the wood heater replacement program previously mentioned by other speakers in this debate. I do note that last time this issue was discussed there was not a huge take-up of the replacement program. However, that does not mean that wood heaters have not been replaced in many households without them tapping into the rebate. In this instance, it is very hard to collect reliable numbers of households that have in fact changed their mode of home heating.

We should be considering a more proactive approach in relation to people who do burn their wood inappropriately, and investigate further enforcement of regulations. However, this must go hand in hand with an information and awareness campaign. There is evidence from other jurisdictions, such as some areas in Tasmania, that shows that good public education can make a difference. It could be that there are better ways of informing the public about how to use a wood heater more efficiently and what other forms of home heating could be an alternative. This will in turn have a positive effect on our air quality.

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